Last Update 8/210/18

 

Unnatural: Fruit of Evil (1952)

Hildegarde Knef is a woman created by artificial insemination and in a lab by Eric Von Stroheim. Because of this she has no soul, no morality, and everyone around her is affected by her evil aura. Several of them die. This is also known as Alraune and as Mandragore, the latter because of references to legends of the mandrake. Although this is a Frankenstein variation, it seems more designed as a commentary on a lack of human feelings and how destructive that can be. Itís also fairly dull despite the good cast. Dubbed. 8/21/18

Liane, Jungle Goddess (1956)  

In this dubbed German made jungle adventure Ė first of three in a series - an expedition finds a tribe worshipping a white woman for another variation of an old and familiar story. Predictable and not very interest consequences follow their abduction of the jungle girl, and frankly given how they treat her, I was hoping the tribesmen would win. Chauvinist, racist, and not even particularly sensible. And there is not even a hint of an original idea. 8/20/17

Black Wake (2018)

If I had known this was a found footage film, I probably would have passed it by. A series of odd deaths, disappearances, and abnormal behavior results in a scientific investigation of the possibility of an ocean borne parasite. The opening scene in which two agents in a car way out in the open fail to notice a crowd of maddened attackers until they are in armís length was not a good sign either. There is a bizarre mix of seasoned actors and often untalented newcomers. The dialogue is less than thrilling. Too much of it is narrated. Show, donít tell. The film moves back and forth from color to black and white. The writers donít seem to understand the law, how a documentary would be made, and sometimes not even how humans interact. The woman whose narration intersperses the action was actively annoying. And if they have tape of someone being killed by the parasite, how can she say that they have no idea of the cause of death?  Some of the found footage is impossible. There was no one there to shoot it. If the owners of a yacht disappeared at sea, leaving a video behind, then they would certainly have been identified. And ďdiscribedĒ is not a word. 8/19/18

The Wreck of Mary Deare (1957)

A quite loyal adaptation of the Hammond Innes novel. Crooked businessmen plan to scuttle a ship so they can collect insurance on its cargo, but its captain is an honest man who raises uncomfortable questions at the board of inquiry. And the ship, presmued sunk, is actually beached on a reef, available for inspection and confirmation of the captain's story. Gary Cooper and Charlton Heston star. Good special effects and action scenes and a good cast throughout. 8/18/18

Atomic Blonde (2017)

An old fashioned spy adventure starring Charlize Theron as a British agent in Cold War Berlin, or at least that's what it appears to be. Unfortunately there is a misguided attempt to make this artsy and all it accomplishes is to make it hard to follow and to obscure some exceptionally good performances by the cast. The plot supposedly involves a battle for control of a list of double agents, but it just becomes an incoherent series of scenes that are as a whole uninteresting and sometimes frustrating. By the end I didn't care if the communists won. 8/16/19

Insidious: The Last Key (2018)

Fourth and maybe last in this franchise. A psychic returns to her home town to confront ghosts - literally - from her past. The opening scenes are gratuitous scenes of child abuse that contribute nothing to the movie and are quite offensive. They also don't make much sense in context. The basement under the house is so big and has such high ceilings that it is obviously a factory or something similar. The scares are mostly predictable and rather dull, and after a while I got tired of hearing the same old cliches over and over again. Please let the series die before it gets even worse. 8/15/18

Pledges (2018) 

I was in the mood for something mindless and this movie about a bunch of sorority and fraternity pledges left to fend for themselves in the woods with a crazed killer seemed to fill the bill. Frankly, anyone who submits to this kind of nonsense gets no sympathy from me. Alas, bad sound and dialogue that I couldnít even hear didnít get this off to a good start. I turned the sound up all the way and still couldnít hear what they were saying. As if that wasnít bad enough, we are forced to sit through a long sequence of dumb interactions among people we would never want to meet in real life before anything actually happens. I gave up half way through because even with the sound at maximum, I could not hear the dialogue. Avoid this like the plague. 8/14/18

Insidious 3 (2015) 

Prequel to the first two movies about a haunted family. Pretty much inferior to the humdrum first two. A teenager turns to a psychic to help her communicate with her dead mother. The actors are generally stilted and unnatural. The early dialogue is almost painfully phony. The characters are so annoying or innocuous that I didnít care about any of them, and the dialogue is frequently embarrassingly bad.  There is a steady stream of pretentious but uninteresting events as a young woman supposedly obsessed with contacting her dead mother, although she is not remotely convincing. The weird neighbor lady just seems like a bad actor. The plot is so silly that I lost interest early. Mostly jump scares, and not well done ones. I was more bored than scared. 8/13/18

The Meg (2018) 

Yeah, I like giant shark movies. This one stars Jason Statham and is about the discovery of prehistoric sharks. Itís a Chinese/American production and is a great deal of fun. There are a couple of plot problems. Why would you send a manned ship into unknown territory without sending a probe first, and if you already have four submersibles capable of making the descent, why havenít you done so previously? That aside, we have lots of encounter on and under the water, several of them quite intense, and the special effects are excellent throughout. Thereís the inevitable cute little girl Ė but she really is cute Ė and a couple of minor surprises to keep the plot twisting. Great way to break up a hot day. From the novel by Steve Alten, which I read so long ago that I have no idea how loyal the movie is. 8/12/18

Beneath the Mississippi (2008)

A woman takes a film crew to document the story of an entire town that disappeared years earlier. She was actually a witness, although the rest of the crew is unaware of that fact. There is the premise of a good movie here, but itís too long, too slow, frequently underlit, and for some reason the soundtrack is frequently inaudible, or increases and decreases randomly. There are also some unfocused ďartyĒ shots that should have been eliminated. They add nothing and are annoying. When things are visible, the colors are bleached out. Some scenes are quite literally out of focus. And it never actually solves the mystery! 8/11/18

Croczilla (2012) 

A Chinese creature feature. A very large crocodile is to be sold to a restaurant run by gangsters, but the croc has other ideas. During the course of his escape, he swallows a bag containing a great deal of money.  The owner, a young woman, is frantic to get it back and interacts with various other characters. There is a good deal of humor and the dubbing is surprisingly effective. This was actually worth watching.  The story makes sense and some of the acting is quite impressive. Even the special effects are pretty good. A very pleasant surprise. 8/10/18

Campbell's Kingdom (1957)

Adaptation of the Hammond Innes novel about the rivalry between an oil drigging team and a crew building a dam. Only one can survive. The romantic scenes are horribly awkward and a lot of the story is compressed. Some characters from the book are eliminated completely, others are merged. The falsified geological survey that is uncovered in the book becomes general knowledge quite early. Despite a few rearrangements, this was a pretty close adaptation of the book, and not at all a bad movie. 8/9/18

Shocking Dark (1981)

This is a mashup of Aliens and Predator, done cheaply. The city of Venice has been abandoned because of a toxic cloud and other environmental problems. It opens with men running through an underground sewer system. One of them appears to have been turned into a quasi-zombie. A military mission with a female scientist and a civilian observer decide to investigate. Bottom of the barrel acting is wed to bottom of the barrel writing. The capture, and escape, of the zombielike character is stolen from the remake of The Body Snatchers, inserted into a sequence stolen from Aliens. The rescue party finds humans encased in slime. Where have we seen that before?  Guess what! An alien bursts out of his chest.  They find an orphan girl living in the tunnels! The dialogue is sometimes word for word from other movies. The aliens are not very convincing rubber suits and the marines are all armed exclusively with shotguns. Some scenes are repeated several times. Giant aliens hide in tiny, empty rooms until they're needed to attack someone. The movie is blatant plagiarism on top of all of its other faults. The evil company guy turns out to be artificial - a "replicant" - and turns on the rest of them. 8/8/18

Toxic Shark (2017)

An acid-spitting CGI shark lurks around an island resort where really boring and stupid people portrayed by untalented actors repeat lines so bad that I'm surprised they could keep from laughing. I bet the outtakes are substantial. Sometimes the dialogue doesn't even make any sense. A large number of guests are devoured/disappear but no one seems to notice, and naturally the phone line to the mainland has been severed and no one has a satellite phone. Even for the SyFy channel this was amateurish, unconvincing, and bad in ways that don't even have the redeeming quality of being funny. At one point the very large shark is completely concealed in knee high water. Some of the crying scenes sound more like laughter. Oh, and there are zombies. 8/7/18

Ant Man and Wasp (2018)

I was somewhat though not entirely disappointed in this one. I liked the first a great deal so a letdown was probably inevitable. There is a good chase sequence late in the movie which was lots of fun. But Ghost wasn't much of a villain, and is partially redeemed anyway, and the mobster was more comic relief than actual menace. The plot involves the attempt to rescue Hank Pym's wife from the quantum realm while the mobster wants to steal and sell the technology, and Ghost wants to use it to cure the fatal quantum disease affecting her body. A lot of scenes are overly contrived and the humor is more pervasive and less funny than it should have been. 8/3/18

Happy Death Day (2017)

A really unlikeable college student is murdered and finds herself reliving her final day over and over again. The only way to break the loop is to solve her own murder. Not an entirely original concept, but handled surprisingly well. She pisses off enough people that there are lots of candidates. She's having an affair with a professor and his wife suspects. She's rude to ex-boyfriends as well as other members of her sorority and a few people in general. The killer wears a mask so even though we see the murder, we cannot identify him. Or her. Naturally she tries to change the sequence of events, but it always ends with her death. There are some problems. For one thing, the cast act like parodies of college students, not real ones. For another, the protagonist is such a jerk that you might find yourself cheering on the killer, although she does redeem herself by the end. This was actually quite good.

Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom (2018)

This is pretty much a mess. For one thing, it contradicts the earlier movies. There were no radio transmitters implanted in the animals in the original movie. They also appear to have forgotten completely about the second island because they keep saying all the dinosaurs will be extinct again if Isla Nublar explodes. And once again Jeff Goldblum gets to say a few lines that sound intelligent but are either categorically wrong or have no real content. A plan to rescue some of the animals prior to a volcanic eruption is complicated when it turns out the mercenaries hired are actually working to sell the animals to arms dealers and other bad guys. A number of these get killed during an almost incomprehensible series of events at the climax. And even though it is mentioned that a DNA sample would be enough, they capture the animals despite all the problems that entails. And not even breeding pairs. And of course the bad scientist guy has managed to crossbreed a velociraptor with a tyrannosaur. And ther's a cut kid. Nevertheless, I was relieved when this was over. 7/30/18

House of the Witch (2017)

A bunch of college kids decide to have a Halloween party in a big, empty, supposedly haunted house. Where have I heard that one before? I started to have my doubts when the supposedly off limits property does not have a locked gate and the grass, while unruly, had certainly been cut with a few weeks. The usual cast of characters, including a token black kid, arrive and are disposed of or possessed in various predictable and not always convincing ways. I have seen this story so many times that new movies all seem familiar to me. 7/26/18

The Endless (2017)

Two brothers return to the alien worshipping cult that they fled years earlier after receiving a strange messsage, hoping to finally close out that part of their lives. But strange things continue to happen. People disappear. Two moons appear in the sky. Magic tricks defy explanation. They sense a presence in the woods. This was pretty weird and mostly entertaining, but the good ideas were occasionally marred by poor execution, and the bad ideas were just bad. Time and space both appear to be malleable, which results in some strange scenes, but does not provide much information about what is actually going on. The bit where a guy is sitting smoking in front of his own dead body is a case in point. Despite the occasional glitch, this was one of the better movies I've seen recently. 7/24/18

Dark Matter Season 3 (2017) 

Although I have some problems with the premise of this show, the cast is excellent Ė with one exception Ė and the stories have been quite interesting. A crew of brainwashed villains become the good guys in an interstellar war among various corporations. It was cancelled after this season and I suspect part of it was because they struck out in too many directions. There is time travel, parallel universes, alien invasions, artificial humans, and an android rebel movement among other plots.  This is a shame because I really enjoyed entering this world and following its characters. It also suggests that, as in The Expanse, the tv audience is ready for more sophisticated SF. 7/19/18

The Midnight Man (2016)

This is another of those movies where stupid young people perform an ancient ritual in an old house that evokes the monster of the title. Why do people always put these things in their attic instead of destroying them? That said, while this is no classic, the acting and production values are good and the lapses of logic relatively minor, at least until the friend shows up and joins the game. It just made no sense from that point on. And they keep forgetting that they're not supposed to stand still. They remain in one place for half an hour. Some of the special effects are particularly creepy. Unfortunately they keep changing the rules and powers of the monster as the movie progresses. Motivations make no sense at times. People forget things they have learned. Supposedly a ring of salt provides protection, but the monster can break the circle! Robert Englund has a cameo. 5/7/18

Channel Zero: Candle Cove (2016)

The unusual premise for this series is that each season is a different, six part mini-series with different characters and story lines.  A child psychologist returns to his home town where his twin brother disappeared when they were twelve. They watched a television program which, according to some characters was real and according to others was imaginary. The hero encounters a skeleton costumed figure in the woods just before he finds a lost child. The problem is that while things that should be hidden are unclear, others that should be revealed are also unclear, which makes it nearly impossible to find any underlying logic, or to care for any of the characters.  Now that he is back, some of the local people wonder if he was responsible. There's supernatural stuff as well as the basic mystery, but the latter takes too long to assume a shape and provide momentum. One bewildering thing after another distracts us and dilutes the story line. The chief protagonist is portrayed as a diffident, retiring introvert whose low voice and lack of energy left me impatient and annoyed. Not an auspicious start. 7/5/18

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